Monday, November 12, 2007

The Cronk didn't publish ...

this letter ... but that doesn't mean I can't:

To the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Senator Feinstein and Sen. Rockefeller are tools of the big
telecommunications providers and do not represent their
constituents, except for perhaps Republicans.

There is no need for retroactive immunity for telecoms. 18
USC ยง 2511 provides that the attorney general could certify
legality to cooperating telecoms by providing:
a certification in writing ... that no warrant or court
order is required by law, that all statutory
requirements have been met, and that the specified
assistance is required,
Such a certification would protect a company from any
liability. Section 2511 goes on to say:
...No cause of action shall lie in any court against
any provider of wire or electronic communication service,
... in accordance with the terms of a ... certification
under this chapter.
Had such been done, there would be no liability. The
telecom lawyers surely knew this and could have asked for
such.

The telecoms will not be "held hostage to costly
litigation", particularly if they have done no wrong. Much
more, they, as large corporations, certainly have far
greater legal resources than do the plaintiffs and can
certainly shoulder the burden of court proceedings far
better (and longer) than the plaintiffs.

Feinstein's claim that the telecoms could not adequately
"defend themselves in court" is also wrong. If they would
have to disclose "state secrets" to defend themselves, they
(or the government on their behalf) can raise this issue in
a motion for dismissal, and they already have. But the
judge has denied this motion, and is perfectly capable of
preventing disclosure of actual secrets through appropriate
court orders.

Feinstein's suggestion that total damages be limited
ignores the fact that damages are set on a 'per violation'
basis. If there was only a limited snoop (of suspected
and actual terrorists), then the damages will be "limited".
But if the telecoms handed over massive amounts of data
from millions of people, then the damages might be
extensive, but then it becomes more and more clear that
the snoops were massive invasions of privacy of millions
of completely innocent people, and should be punished.

Feinstein's additional suggestion that the appropriate
"remedy" is through an audit of the surveillance program
by the Justice Department's inspector general, is absurd,
of course. This is the administration inspecting itself;
the classic case of the fox watching the hen house.

Arne Langsetmo

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